State school board pushes for more testing cuts

The state school board is urging Ohio lawmakers to make three more reductions in state testing for students, including two changes tied to graduation.

The board voted this week to recommend eliminating the high school English 1 state exam – one of the seven end-of-course tests that currently make up a primary pathway to graduation. The English 2 exam would remain in place.

If the state legislature agrees, the move would also likely require a recalculation of how many test points are required for graduation on that pathway. Currently there are seven tests, each graded on a 1-5 scale, for a maximum of 35 points, and with 18 points required for graduation.

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“If we take out English 1, or the legislature takes out English 1, then you have six tests instead of seven, and a 30-point total,” said state board member Nick Owens, who represents Greene and Clark counties. “So the thought was, in fairness, we certainly shouldn’t keep (the requirement) at 18 points.”

If the state legislature approves the changes, it is not yet clear which graduating class they would first apply to. The state has already added extra non-test graduation options for Class of 2018 students, including some tied to attendance, classroom grades, and work or volunteer hours.

As a second change, the board also recommended eliminating the WorkKeys job readiness exam that is part of a career tech graduation pathway taking effect this year. Students earning approved job credentials to qualify for a diploma also were supposed to achieve a certain WorkKeys score to graduate. That standard had already been adjusted slightly.

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In this week’s recommendation, instead of passing WorkKeys, those students would have to achieve certain scores (yet to be determined) on the state English 2 and Algebra 1 exams in addition to earning their job credentials.

“For some professions, WorkKeys might be spot-on, but if you’re a welder who can go and make $60,000 somewhere in the country coming out of high school, and you still want them to score a 12 or 14 on the WorkKeys, that’s probably a little unfair,” Owens said.

The third recommendation is to eliminate certain Ohio Teacher Evaluation System requirements that lead to individual school and classroom-level tests to measure student growth.

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State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria earlier this year suggested that some of the state’s problem with overtesting comes from the variety of locally generated tests, some used for diagnostics, and some used for evaluation purposes.

DeMaria’s Advisory Committee on Assessments issued a June report on reducing testing, and earlier this year, the state legislature eliminated the state social studies tests for fourth- and sixth-graders.

The state board ended its resolutions with a call for the Ohio Department of Education to “ensure an orderly transition as the state’s testing structure is modified as well as continue its work on identifying opportunities to streamline testing efficiencies.”

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